In more than five decades as a musician, button accordion master Paddy O’Brien of County Offaly has gained a reputation as a walking encyclopedia of Irish music; it’s estimated that he carries in his head the melodies of more than 3,000 Irish tunes.
In 1994, Paddy embarked on what was to become a milestone project in Irish traditional music, to record and assemble background information on 500 jigs and reels from his vast repertoire of traditional tunes; the result of that effort, The Paddy OBrien Tune Collection: A Personal Treasury of Irish Traditional Music, Volume One, received accolades from players of Irish music around the world. In 2011, Paddy released Volume Two of his ground-breaking work, featuring another 500 tunes, this time including more jigs and reels, but also hornpipes, slip jigs, and polkas. A third volume, featuring a rare collection of jigs, reels, slides, harp tunes, and clan marches, is now in progress.
Not since Captain Francis O'Neill compiled The Music of Ireland in 1903 has a collection of this size and scope been made available. And no single individual in the world of Irish traditional music has ever undertaken such an ambitious project as recording more than 1,000 tunes from memory.
What also sets The Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection apart is the fact that it has been created especially for serious students of Irish music, players, like Paddy himself, who learn music in the traditional manner—by ear.
Each tune is played through several times on solo accordion, in a catalog-style presentation. Paddy has also compiled background information on every tune, sometimes a bit about the melody’s lineage and history, sometimes his own experience of learning it from a member of the older generation.
SOME REVIEWS OF THE PADDY O’BRIEN TUNE COLLECTION:
Paddy’s settings are always faithful to his sources, while containing his own ‘stamp’. There is considerable complexity in his settings and variations, lots to think about. I am finding myself humming tunes from the collection I haven’t thought about for a long time. I could not be happier with the collection.
– Frank Claudy, Davenport, IA – April 2001
For anyone interested in playing and learning to play traditional Irish music I heartily and unreservedly recommend Paddy O’Brien’s Tune Collection which has recorded 500 reels and jigs on twelve cassette tapes. A book which annotates each tune with interesting background information is included. No written music (dots) are included, but you will get a great feel for how the music is played. Paddy plays a 2-row 1947-vintage B/C Paolo Soprani (swing tuned) throughout (he has the bassoon reed turned off, so you hear each tune very clearly and precisely). He is very spare with ornamentation and yet he provides some beautiful examples of melodic variation on each tune. It’s like having a master class in your living room.
– Chris Moran, California – April 2001
Thank you for the Tune Collection. I’m on my second round of listening. I refer to your notes constantly. Your tempo really puts the tunes in the spotlight and I feel like I’m hearing some of the old standards for the first time. If listening wasn’t so enjoyable, I’d almost say that your collection and the notes are a graduate level course in Irish music!
– Kevin Dailey, Washington DC – May 2000